Shapes of Clay
Ambrose Bierce

Part 3 out of 5

As down the early centuries of pre-historic time
He tracked important principles and quoted striking rhyme,
And Whisky Bill, prosaic soul! proclaiming him a jay,
Had risen and like an earthquake, "reeled unheededly away,"
And a late lamented cat, when opportunity should serve,
Was preparing to embark upon her parabolic curve,
A noise arose outside--the door was opened with a bang
And old Ebenezer Fink was heard ejaculating "G'lang!"
Straight into that assembly gravely marched without a wink
An ancient ass--the property it was of Mr. Fink.
Its ears depressed and beating time to its infestive tread,
Silent through silence moved amain that stately quadruped!
It stopped before the orator, and in the lamplight thrown
Upon its tail they saw that member weighted with a stone.
Then spake old Ebenezer: "Gents, I heern o' this debate
On w'ether v'ice or y'ears is best the mind to elevate.
Now 'yer's a bird ken throw some light uponto that tough theme:
He has 'em both, I'm free to say, oncommonly extreme.
He wa'n't invited for to speak, but he will not refuse
(If t'other gentleman ken wait) to exposay his views."

Ere merriment or anger o'er amazement could prevail;
He cut the string that held the stone on that canary's tail.
Freed from the weight, that member made a gesture of delight,
Then rose until its rigid length was horizontal quite.
With lifted head and level ears along his withers laid,
Jack sighed, refilled his lungs and then--to put it mildly--brayed!
He brayed until the stones were stirred in circumjacent hills,
And sleeping women rose and fled, in divers kinds of frills.
'T is said that awful bugle-blast--to make the story brief--
Wafted William Perry Peters through the window, like a leaf!

Such is the tale. If anything additional occurred
'Tis not set down, though, truly, I remember to have heard
That a gentleman named Peters, now residing at Soquel,
A considerable distance from the town of Muscatel,
Is opposed to education, and to rhetoric, as well.


Saponacea, wert thou not so fair
I'd curse thee for thy multitude of sins--
For sending home my clothes all full of pins--
A shirt occasionally that's a snare
And a delusion, got, the Lord knows where,
The Lord knows why--a sock whose outs and ins
None know, nor where it ends nor where begins,
And fewer cuffs than ought to be my share.
But when I mark thy lilies how they grow,
And the red roses of thy ripening charms,
I bless the lovelight in thy dark eyes dreaming.
I'll never pay thee, but I'd gladly go
Into the magic circle of thine arms,
Supple and fragrant from repeated steaming.


One thousand years I slept beneath the sod,
My sleep in 1901 beginning,
Then, by the action of some scurvy god
Who happened then to recollect my sinning,
I was revived and given another inning.
On breaking from my grave I saw a crowd--
A formless multitude of men and women,
Gathered about a ruin. Clamors loud
I heard, and curses deep enough to swim in;
And, pointing at me, one said: "Let's put _him_ in."
Then each turned on me with an evil look,
As in my ragged shroud I stood and shook.

"Nay, good Posterity," I cried, "forbear!
If that's a jail I fain would be remaining
Outside, for truly I should little care
To catch my death of cold. I'm just regaining
The life lost long ago by my disdaining
To take precautions against draughts like those
That, haply, penetrate that cracked and splitting
Old structure." Then an aged wight arose
From a chair of state in which he had been sitting,
And with preliminary coughing, spitting
And wheezing, said: "'T is not a jail, we're sure,
Whate'er it may have been when it was newer.

"'T was found two centuries ago, o'ergrown
With brush and ivy, all undoored, ungated;
And in restoring it we found a stone
Set here and there in the dilapidated
And crumbling frieze, inscribed, in antiquated
Big characters, with certain uncouth names,
Which we conclude were borne of old by awful
Rapscallions guilty of all sinful games--
Vagrants engaged in purposes unlawful,
And orators less sensible than jawful.
So each ten years we add to the long row
A name, the most unworthy that we know."

"But why," I asked, "put _me_ in?" He replied:
"You look it"--and the judgment pained me greatly;
Right gladly would I then and there have died,
But that I'd risen from the grave so lately.
But on examining that solemn, stately
Old ruin I remarked: "My friend, you err--
The truth of this is just what I expected.
This building in its time made quite a stir.
I lived (was famous, too) when 't was erected.
The names here first inscribed were much respected.
This is the Hall of Fame, or I'm a stork,
And this goat pasture once was called New York."


Alas for ambition's possessor!
Alas for the famous and proud!
The Isle of Manhattan's best dresser
Is wearing a hand-me-down shroud.

The world has forgotten his glory;
The wagoner sings on his wain,
And Chauncey Depew tells a story,
And jackasses laugh in the lane.


No man can truthfully say that he would not like to
be President.--_William C. Whitney._

Lo! the wild rabbit, happy in the pride
Of qualities to meaner beasts denied,
Surveys the ass with reverence and fear,
Adoring his superior length of ear,
And says: "No living creature, lean or fat,
But wishes in his heart to be like That!"


Let slaves and subjects with unvaried psalms
Before their sovereign execute salaams;
The freeman scorns one idol to adore--
Tom, Dick and Harry and himself are four.


The skies they were ashen and sober,
The leaves they were crisped and sere,--
" " " withering " "
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,--
" " down " " dark tarn " "
In the misty mid region of Weir,--
" " ghoul-haunted woodland " "


Little's the good to sit and grieve
Because the serpent tempted Eve.
Better to wipe your eyes and take
A club and go out and kill a snake.

What do you gain by cursing Nick
For playing her such a scurvy trick?
Better go out and some villain find
Who serves the devil, and beat him blind.

But if you prefer, as I suspect,
To philosophize, why, then, reflect:
If the cunning rascal upon the limb
Hadn't tempted her she'd have tempted him.


Alas, alas, for the tourist's guide!--
He turned from the beaten trail aside,
Wandered bewildered, lay down and died.

O grim is the Irony of Fate:
It switches the man of low estate
And loosens the dogs upon the great.

It lights the fireman to roast the cook;
The fisherman squirms upon the hook,
And the flirt is slain with a tender look.

The undertaker it overtakes;
It saddles the cavalier, and makes
The haughtiest butcher into steaks.

Assist me, gods, to balk the decree!
Nothing I'll do and nothing I'll be,
In order that nothing be done to me.


Republicans think Jonas Bimm
A Democrat gone mad,
And Democrats consider him
Republican and bad.

The Tough reviles him as a Dude
And gives it him right hot;
The Dude condemns his crassitude
And calls him _sans culottes._

Derided as an Anglophile
By Anglophobes, forsooth,
As Anglophobe he feels, the while,
The Anglophilic tooth.

The Churchman calls him Atheist;
The Atheists, rough-shod,
Have ridden o'er him long and hissed
"The wretch believes in God!"

The Saints whom clergymen we call
Would kill him if they could;
The Sinners (scientists and all)
Complain that he is good.

All men deplore the difference
Between themselves and him,
And all devise expedients
For paining Jonas Bimm.

I too, with wild demoniac glee,
Would put out both his eyes;
For Mr. Bimm appears to me
Insufferably wise!


Beneath my window twilight made
Familiar mysteries of shade.
Faint voices from the darkening down
Were calling vaguely to the town.
Intent upon a low, far gleam
That burned upon the world's extreme,
I sat, with short reprieve from grief,
And turned the volume, leaf by leaf,
Wherein a hand, long dead, had wrought
A million miracles of thought.
My fingers carelessly unclung
The lettered pages, and among
Them wandered witless, nor divined
The wealth in which, poor fools, they mined.
The soul that should have led their quest
Was dreaming in the level west,
Where a tall tower, stark and still,
Uplifted on a distant hill,
Stood lone and passionless to claim
Its guardian star's returning flame.

I know not how my dream was broke,
But suddenly my spirit woke
Filled with a foolish fear to look
Upon the hand that clove the book,
Significantly pointing; next
I bent attentive to the text,
And read--and as I read grew old--
The mindless words: "Poor Tom's a-cold!"

Ah me! to what a subtle touch
The brimming cup resigns its clutch
Upon the wine. Dear God, is 't writ
That hearts their overburden bear
Of bitterness though thou permit
The pranks of Chance, alurk in nooks,
And striking coward blows from books,
And dead hands reaching everywhere?


Come, gentlemen--your gold.
Thanks: welcome to the show.
To hear a story told
In words you do not know.

Now, great Salvini, rise
And thunder through your tears,
Aha! friends, let your eyes
Interpret to your ears.

Gods! 't is a goodly game.
Observe his stride--how grand!
When legs like his declaim
Who can misunderstand?

See how that arm goes round.
It says, as plain as day:
"I love," "The lost is found,"
"Well met, sir," or, "Away!"

And mark the drawing down
Of brows. How accurate
The language of that frown:
Pain, gentlemen--or hate.

Those of the critic trade
Swear it is all as clear
As if his tongue were made
To fit an English ear.

Hear that Italian phrase!
Greek to your sense, 't is true;
But shrug, expression, gaze--
Well, they are Grecian too.

But it is Art! God wot
Its tongue to all is known.
Faith! he to whom 't were not
Would better hold his own.

Shakespeare says act and word
Must match together true.
From what you've seen and heard,
How can you doubt they do?

Enchanting drama! Mark
The crowd "from pit to dome",
One box alone is dark--
The prompter stays at home.

Stupendous artist! You
Are lord of joy and woe:
We thrill if you say "Boo,"
And thrill if you say "Bo."


I lay in silence, dead. A woman came
And laid a rose upon my breast and said:
"May God be merciful." She spoke my name,
And added: "It is strange to think him dead.

"He loved me well enough, but 't was his way
To speak it lightly." Then, beneath her breath:
"Besides"--I knew what further she would say,
But then a footfall broke my dream of death.

To-day the words are mine. I lay the rose
Upon her breast, and speak her name and deem
It strange indeed that she is dead. God knows
I had more pleasure in the other dream.


For Gladstone's portrait five thousand pounds
Were paid, 't is said, to Sir John Millais.
I cannot help thinking that such fine pay
Transcended reason's uttermost bounds.

For it seems to me uncommonly queer
That a painted British stateman's price
Exceeds the established value thrice
Of a living statesman over here.


A is defrauded of his land by B,
Who's driven from the premises by C.
D buys the place with coin of plundered E.
"That A's an Anarchist!" says F to G.


When at your window radiant you've stood
I've sometimes thought--forgive me if I've erred--
That some slight thought of me perhaps has stirred
Your heart to beat less gently than it should.
I know you beautiful; that you are good
I hope--or fear--I cannot choose the word,
Nor rightly suit it to the thought. I've heard
Reason at love's dictation never could.
Blindly to this dilemma so I grope,
As one whose every pathway has a snare:
If you are minded in the saintly fashion
Of your pure face my passion's without hope;
If not, alas! I equally despair,
For what to me were hope without the passion?


Grief for an absent lover, husband, friend,
Is barely felt before it comes to end:
A score of early consolations serve
To modify its mouth's dejected curve.
But woes of creditors when debtors flee
Forever swell the separating sea.
When standing on an alien shore you mark
The steady course of some intrepid bark,
How sweet to think a tear for you abides,
Not all unuseful, in the wave she rides!--
That sighs for you commingle in the gale
Beneficently bellying her sail!


An "actors' cemetery"! Sure
The devil never tires
Of planning places to procure
The sticks to feed his fires.


Another Irish landlord gone to grass,
Slain by the bullets of the tenant class!
Pray, good agrarians, what wrong requires
Such foul redress? Between you and the squires
All Ireland's parted with an even hand--
For you have all the ire, they all the land.


God said: "Let there be Man," and from the clay
Adam came forth and, thoughtful, walked away.
The matrix whence his body was obtained,
An empty, man-shaped cavity, remained
All unregarded from that early time
Till in a recent storm it filled with slime.
Now Satan, envying the Master's power
To make the meat himself could but devour,
Strolled to the place and, standing by the pool,
Exerted all his will to make a fool.
A miracle!--from out that ancient hole
Rose Morehouse, lacking nothing but a soul.
"To give him that I've not the power divine,"
Said Satan, sadly, "but I'll lend him mine."
He breathed it into him, a vapor black,
And to this day has never got it back.


"'Let there be Liberty!' God said, and, lo!
The red skies all were luminous. The glow
Struck first Columbia's kindling mountain peaks
One hundred and eleven years ago!"

So sang a patriot whom once I saw
Descending Bunker's holy hill. With awe
I noted that he shone with sacred light,
Like Moses with the tables of the Law.

One hundred and eleven years? O small
And paltry period compared with all
The tide of centuries that flowed and ebbed
To etch Yosemite's divided wall!

Ah, Liberty, they sing you always young
Whose harps are in your adoration strung
(Each swears you are his countrywoman, too,
And speak no language but his mother tongue).

And truly, lass, although with shout and horn
Man has all-hailed you from creation's morn,
I cannot think you old--I think, indeed,
You are by twenty centuries unborn.



The sullen church-bell's intermittent moan,
The dirge's melancholy monotone,
The measured march, the drooping flags, attest
A great man's progress to his place of rest.
Along broad avenues himself decreed
To serve his fellow men's disputed need--
Past parks he raped away from robbers' thrift
And gave to poverty, wherein to lift
Its voice to curse the giver and the gift--
Past noble structures that he reared for men
To meet in and revile him, tongue and pen,
Draws the long retinue of death to show
The fit credentials of a proper woe.

"Boss" Shepherd, you are dead. Your hand no more
Throws largess to the mobs that ramp and roar
For blood of benefactors who disdain
Their purity of purpose to explain,
Their righteous motive and their scorn of gain.
Your period of dream--'twas but a breath--
Is closed in the indifference of death.
Sealed in your silences, to you alike
If hands are lifted to applaud or strike.
No more to your dull, inattentive ear
Praise of to-day than curse of yesteryear.
From the same lips the honied phrases fall
That still are bitter from cascades of gall.
We note the shame; you in your depth of dark
The red-writ testimony cannot mark
On every honest cheek; your senses all
Locked, _incommunicado_, in your pall,
Know not who sit and blush, who stand and bawl.

"Seven Grecian cities claim great Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his
So sang, as if the thought had been his own,
An unknown bard, improving on a known.
"Neglected genius!"--that is sad indeed,
But malice better would ignore than heed,
And Shepherd's soul, we rightly may suspect,
Prayed often for the mercy of neglect
When hardly did he dare to leave his door
Without a guard behind him and before
To save him from the gentlemen that now
In cheap and easy reparation bow
Their corrigible heads above his corse
To counterfeit a grief that's half remorse.

The pageant passes and the exile sleeps,
And well his tongue the solemn secret keeps
Of the great peace he found afar, until,
Death's writ of extradition to fulfill,
They brought him, helpless, from that friendly zone
To be a show and pastime in his own--
A final opportunity to those
Who fling with equal aim the stone and rose;
That at the living till his soul is freed,
This at the body to conceal the deed!

Lone on his hill he's lying to await
What added honors may befit his state--
The monument, the statue, or the arch
(Where knaves may come to weep and dupes to march)
Builded by clowns to brutalize the scenes
His genius beautified. To get the means,
His newly good traducers all are dunned
For contributions to the conscience fund.
If each subscribe (and pay) one cent 'twill rear
A structure taller than their tallest ear.

Washington, May 4, 1903.


Not as two errant spheres together grind
With monstrous ruin in the vast of space,
Destruction born of that malign embrace,
Their hapless peoples all to death consigned--
Not so when our intangible worlds of mind,
Even mine and yours, each with its spirit race
Of beings shadowy in form and face,
Shall drift together on some blessed wind.
No, in that marriage of gloom and light
All miracles of beauty shall be wrought,
Attesting a diviner faith than man's;
For all my sad-eyed daughters of the night
Shall smile on your sweet seraphim of thought,
Nor any jealous god forbid the banns.


When, long ago, the young world circling flew
Through wider reaches of a richer blue,
New-eyed, the men and maids saw, manifest,
The thoughts untold in one another's breast:
Each wish displayed, and every passion learned--
A look revealed them as a look discerned.
But sating Time with clouds o'ercast their eyes;
Desire was hidden, and the lips framed lies.
A goddess then, emerging from the dust,
Fair Virtue rose, the daughter of Distrust.


The Seraphs came to Christ, and said: "Behold!
The man, presumptuous and overbold,
Who boasted that his mercy could excel
Thine own, is dead and on his way to Hell."

Gravely the Saviour asked: "What did he do
To make his impious assertion true?"

"He was a Governor, releasing all
The vilest felons ever held in thrall.
No other mortal, since the dawn of time,
Has ever pardoned such a mass of crime!"

Christ smiled benignly on the Seraphim:
"Yet I am victor, for I pardon _him_."


TOM JONESMITH _(loquitur)_: I've slept right through
The night--a rather clever thing to do.
How soundly women sleep _(looks at his wife.)_
They're all alike. The sweetest thing in life
Is woman when she lies with folded tongue,
Its toil completed and its day-song sung.
(_Thump_) That's the morning paper. What a bore
That it should be delivered at the door.
There ought to be some expeditious way
To get it _to_ one. By this long delay
The fizz gets off the news _(a rap is heard)_.
That's Jane, the housemaid; she's an early bird;
She's brought it to the bedroom door, good soul.
_(Gets up and takes it in.)_ Upon the whole
The system's not so bad a one. What's here?
Gad, if they've not got after--listen dear
_(To sleeping wife)_--young Gastrotheos! Well,
If Freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell
She'll shriek again--with laughter--seeing how
They treated Gast. with her. Yet I'll allow
'T is right if he goes dining at The Pup
With Mrs. Thing.

WIFE _(briskly, waking up)_:
With her? The hussy! Yes, it serves him right.

JONESMITH (_continuing to "seek the light"_):
What's this about old Impycu? That's good!
Grip--that's the funny man--says Impy should
Be used as a decoy in shooting tramps.
I knew old Impy when he had the "stamps"
To buy us all out, and he wasn't then
So bad a chap to have about. Grip's pen
Is just a tickler!--and the world, no doubt,
Is better with it than it was without.
What? thirteen ladies--Jumping Jove! we know
Them nearly all!--who gamble at a low
And very shocking game of cards called "draw"!
O cracky, how they'll squirm! ha-ha! haw-haw!
Let's see what else (_wife snores_). Well, I'll be blest!
A woman doesn't understand a jest.
Hello! What, what? the scurvy wretch proceeds
To take a fling at _me_, condemn him! (_reads_):
Tom Jonesmith--my name's Thomas, vulgar cad!--_Of
the new Shavings Bank_--the man's gone mad!
That's libelous; I'll have him up for that--_Has
had his corns cut_. Devil take the rat!
What business is 't of his, I'd like to know?
He didn't have to cut them. Gods! what low
And scurril things our papers have become!
You skim their contents and you get but scum.
Here, Mary, (_waking wife_) I've been attacked
In this vile sheet. By Jove, it is a fact!

WIFE (_reading it_): How wicked! Who do you
Suppose 't was wrote it?

JONESMITH: Who? why, who
But Grip, the so-called funny man--he wrote
Me up because I'd not discount his note.
(_Blushes like sunset at the hideous lie--
He'll think of one that's better by and by--
Throws down the paper on the floor, and treads
A lively measure on it--kicks the shreds
And patches all about the room, and still
Performs his jig with unabated will._)

WIFE (_warbling sweetly, like an Elfland horn_):
Dear, do be careful of that second corn.

Noting some great man's composition vile:
A head of wisdom and a heart of guile,
A will to conquer and a soul to dare,
Joined to the manners of a dancing bear,
Fools unaccustomed to the wide survey
Of various Nature's compensating sway,
Untaught to separate the wheat and chaff,
To praise the one and at the other laugh,
Yearn all in vain and impotently seek
Some flawless hero upon whom to wreak
The sycophantic worship of the weak.
Not so the wise, from superstition free,
Who find small pleasure in the bended knee;
Quick to discriminate 'twixt good and bad,
And willing in the king to find the cad--
No reason seen why genius and conceit,
The power to dazzle and the will to cheat,
The love of daring and the love of gin,
Should not dwell, peaceful, in a single skin.
To such, great Stanley, you're a hero still,
Despite your cradling in a tub for swill.
Your peasant manners can't efface the mark
Of light you drew across the Land of Dark.

In you the extremes of character are wed,
To serve the quick and villify the dead.
Hero and clown! O, man of many sides,
The Muse of Truth adores you and derides,
And sheds, impartial, the revealing ray
Upon your head of gold and feet of clay.


She stood at the ticket-seller's
Serenely removing her glove,
While hundreds of strugglers and yellers,
And some that were good at a shove,
Were clustered behind her like bats in
a cave and unwilling to speak their love.

At night she still stood at that window
Endeavoring her money to reach;
The crowds right and left, how they sinned--O,
How dreadfully sinned in their speech!
Ten miles either way they extended
their lines, the historians teach.

She stands there to-day--legislation
Has failed to remove her. The trains
No longer pull up at that station;
And over the ghastly remains
Of the army that waited and died of
old age fall the snows and the rains.


Upon this quarter-eagle's leveled face,
The Lord's Prayer, legibly inscribed, I trace.
"Our Father which"--the pronoun there is funny,
And shows the scribe to have addressed the money--
"Which art in Heaven"--an error this, no doubt:
The preposition should be stricken out.
Needless to quote; I only have designed
To praise the frankness of the pious mind
Which thought it natural and right to join,
With rare significancy, prayer and coin.


"You acted unwisely," I cried, "as you see
By the outcome." He calmly eyed me:
"When choosing the course of my action," said he,
"I had not the outcome to guide me."


Once on a time, so ancient poets sing,
There reigned in Godknowswhere a certain king.
So great a monarch ne'er before was seen:
He was a hero, even to his queen,
In whose respect he held so high a place
That none was higher,--nay, not even the ace.
He was so just his Parliament declared
Those subjects happy whom his laws had spared;
So wise that none of the debating throng
Had ever lived to prove him in the wrong;
So good that Crime his anger never feared,
And Beauty boldly plucked him by the beard;
So brave that if his army got a beating
None dared to face him when he was retreating.
This monarch kept a Fool to make his mirth,
And loved him tenderly despite his worth.
Prompted by what caprice I cannot say,
He called the Fool before the throne one day
And to that jester seriously said:
"I'll abdicate, and you shall reign instead,
While I, attired in motley, will make sport
To entertain your Majesty and Court."

'T was done and the Fool governed. He decreed
The time of harvest and the time of seed;
Ordered the rains and made the weather clear,
And had a famine every second year;
Altered the calendar to suit his freak,
Ordaining six whole holidays a week;
Religious creeds and sacred books prepared;
Made war when angry and made peace when scared.
New taxes he inspired; new laws he made;
Drowned those who broke them, who observed them, flayed,
In short, he ruled so well that all who'd not
Been starved, decapitated, hanged or shot
Made the whole country with his praises ring,
Declaring he was every inch a king;
And the High Priest averred 't was very odd
If one so competent were not a god.

Meantime, his master, now in motley clad,
Wore such a visage, woeful, wan and sad,
That some condoled with him as with a brother
Who, having lost a wife, had got another.
Others, mistaking his profession, often
Approached him to be measured for a coffin.
For years this highborn jester never broke
The silence--he was pondering a joke.
At last, one day, in cap-and-bells arrayed,
He strode into the Council and displayed
A long, bright smile, that glittered in the gloom
Like a gilt epithet within a tomb.
Posing his bauble like a leader's staff,
To give the signal when (and why) to laugh,
He brought it down with peremptory stroke
And simultaneously cracked his joke!

I can't repeat it, friends. I ne'er could school
Myself to quote from any other fool:
A jest, if it were worse than mine, would start
My tears; if better, it would break my heart.
So, if you please, I'll hold you but to state
That royal Jester's melancholy fate.

The insulted nation, so the story goes,
Rose as one man--the very dead arose,
Springing indignant from the riven tomb,
And babes unborn leapt swearing from the womb!
All to the Council Chamber clamoring went,
By rage distracted and on vengeance bent.
In that vast hall, in due disorder laid,
The tools of legislation were displayed,
And the wild populace, its wrath to sate,
Seized them and heaved them at the Jester's pate.
Mountains of writing paper; pools and seas
Of ink, awaiting, to become decrees,
Royal approval--and the same in stacks
Lay ready for attachment, backed with wax;
Pens to make laws, erasers to amend them;
With mucilage convenient to extend them;
Scissors for limiting their application,
And acids to repeal all legislation--
These, flung as missiles till the air was dense,
Were most offensive weapons of offense,
And by their aid the Fool was nigh destroyed.
They ne'er had been so harmlessly employed.
Whelmed underneath a load of legal cap,
His mouth egurgitating ink on tap,
His eyelids mucilaginously sealed,
His fertile head by scissors made to yield
Abundant harvestage of ears, his pelt,
In every wrinkle and on every welt,
Quickset with pencil-points from feet to gills
And thickly studded with a pride of quills,
The royal Jester in the dreadful strife
Was made (in short) an editor for life!

An idle tale, and yet a moral lurks
In this as plainly as in greater works.
I shall not give it birth: one moral here
Would die of loneliness within a year.


When Liberverm resigned the chair
Of This or That in college, where
For two decades he'd gorged his brain
With more than it could well contain,
In order to relieve the stress
He took to writing for the press.
Then Pondronummus said, "I'll help
This mine of talent to devel'p;"
And straightway bought with coin and credit
The _Thundergust_ for him to edit.

The great man seized the pen and ink
And wrote so hard he couldn't think;
Ideas grew beneath his fist
And flew like falcons from his wrist.
His pen shot sparks all kinds of ways
Till all the rivers were ablaze,
And where the coruscations fell
Men uttered words I dare not spell.

Eftsoons with corrugated brow,
Wet towels bound about his pow,
Locked legs and failing appetite,
He thought so hard he couldn't write.
His soaring fancies, chickenwise,
Came home to roost and wouldn't rise.
With dimmer light and milder heat
His goose-quill staggered o'er the sheet,
Then dragged, then stopped; the finish came--
He couldn't even write his name.
The _Thundergust_ in three short weeks
Had risen, roared, and split its cheeks.
Said Pondronummus, "How unjust!
The storm I raised has laid my dust!"

When, Moneybagger, you have aught
Invested in a vein of thought,
Be sure you've purchased not, instead,
That salted claim, a bookworm's head.


O very remarkable mortal,
What food is engaging your jaws
And staining with amber their portal?
"It's 'baccy I chaws."

And why do you sway in your walking,
To right and left many degrees,
And hitch up your trousers when talking?
"I follers the seas."

Great indolent shark in the rollers,
Is "'baccy," too, one of your faults?--
You, too, display maculate molars.
"I dines upon salts."

Strange diet!--intestinal pain it
Is commonly given to nip.
And how can you ever obtain it?
"I follers the ship."


"I beg you to note," said a Man to a Goose,
As he plucked from her bosom the plumage all loose,
"That pillows and cushions of feathers and beds
As warm as maids' hearts and as soft as their heads,
Increase of life's comforts the general sum--
Which raises the standard of living." "Come, come,"
The Goose said, impatiently, "tell me or cease,
How that is of any advantage to geese."
"What, what!" said the man--"you are very obtuse!
Consumption no profit to those who produce?
No good to accrue to Supply from a grand
Progressive expansion, all round, of Demand?
Luxurious habits no benefit bring
To those who purvey the luxurious thing?
Consider, I pray you, my friend, how the growth
Of luxury promises--" "Promises," quoth
The sufferer, "what?--to what course is it pledged
To pay me for being so often defledged?"
"Accustomed"--this notion the plucker expressed
As he ripped out a handful of down from her breast--
"To one kind of luxury, people soon yearn
For others and ever for others in turn;
And the man who to-night on your feathers will rest,
His mutton or bacon or beef to digest,
His hunger to-morrow will wish to assuage
By dining on goose with a dressing of sage."


"I've found the secret of your charm," I said,
Expounding with complacency my guess.
Alas! the charm, even as I named it, fled,
For all its secret was unconsciousness.


I reckon that ye never knew,
That dandy slugger, Tom Carew,
He had a touch as light an' free
As that of any honey-bee;
But where it lit there wasn't much
To jestify another touch.
O, what a Sunday-school it was
To watch him puttin' up his paws
An' roominate upon their heft--
Particular his holy left!
Tom was my style--that's all I say;
Some others may be equal gay.
What's come of him? Dunno, I'm sure--
He's dead--which make his fate obscure.
I only started in to clear
One vital p'int in his career,
Which is to say--afore he died
He soiled his erming mighty snide.
Ye see he took to politics
And learnt them statesmen-fellers' tricks;
Pulled wires, wore stovepipe hats, used scent,
Just like he was the President;
Went to the Legislator; spoke
Right out agin the British yoke--
But that was right. He let his hair
Grow long to qualify for Mayor,
An' once or twice he poked his snoot
In Congress like a low galoot!
It had to come--no gent can hope
To wrastle God agin the rope.
Tom went from bad to wuss. Being dead,
I s'pose it oughtn't to be said,
For sech inikities as flow
From politics ain't fit to know;
But, if you think it's actin' white
To tell it--Thomas throwed a fight!


As time rolled on the whole world came to be
A desolation and a darksome curse;
And some one said: "The changes that you see
In the fair frame of things, from bad to worse,
Are wrought by strikes. The sun withdrew his glimmer
Because the moon assisted with her shimmer.

"Then, when poor Luna, straining very hard,
Doubled her light to serve a darkling world,
He called her 'scab,' and meanly would retard
Her rising: and at last the villain hurled
A heavy beam which knocked her o'er the Lion
Into the nebula of great O'Ryan.

"The planets all had struck some time before,
Demanding what they said were equal rights:
Some pointing out that others had far more
That a fair dividend of satellites.
So all went out--though those the best provided,
If they had dared, would rather have abided.

"The stars struck too--I think it was because
The comets had more liberty than they,
And were not bound by any hampering laws,
While _they_ were fixed; and there are those who say
The comets' tresses nettled poor Altair,
An aged orb that hasn't any hair.

"The earth's the only one that isn't in
The movement--I suppose because she's watched
With horror and disgust how her fair skin
Her pranking parasites have fouled and blotched
With blood and grease in every labor riot,
When seeing any purse or throat to fly at."


"The world is dull," I cried in my despair:
"Its myths and fables are no longer fair.

"Roll back thy centuries, O Father Time.
To Greece transport me in her golden prime.

"Give back the beautiful old Gods again--
The sportive Nymphs, the Dryad's jocund train,

"Pan piping on his reeds, the Naiades,
The Sirens singing by the sleepy seas.

"Nay, show me but a Gorgon and I'll dare
To lift mine eyes to her peculiar hair

"(The fatal horrors of her snaky pate,
That stiffen men into a stony state)

"And die--erecting, as my soul goes hence,
A statue of myself, without expense."

Straight as I spoke I heard the voice of Fate:
"Look up, my lad, the Gorgon sisters wait."

Raising my eyes, I saw Medusa stand,
Stheno, Euryale, on either hand.

I gazed unpetrified and unappalled--
The girls had aged and were entirely bald!


Sleep fell upon my senses and I dreamed
Long years had circled since my life had fled.
The world was different, and all things seemed
Remote and strange, like noises to the dead.
And one great Voice there was; and something said:
"Posterity is speaking--rightly deemed
Infallible:" and so I gave attention,
Hoping Posterity my name would mention.

"Illustrious Spirit," said the Voice, "appear!
While we confirm eternally thy fame,
Before our dread tribunal answer, here,
Why do no statues celebrate thy name,
No monuments thy services proclaim?
Why did not thy contemporaries rear
To thee some schoolhouse or memorial college?
It looks almighty queer, you must acknowledge."

Up spake I hotly: "That is where you err!"
But some one thundered in my ear: "You shan't
Be interrupting these proceedings, sir;
The question was addressed to General Grant."
Some other things were spoken which I can't
Distinctly now recall, but I infer,
By certain flushings of my cheeks and forehead,
Posterity's environment is torrid.

Then heard I (this was in a dream, remark)
Another Voice, clear, comfortable, strong,
As Grant's great shade, replying from the dark,
Said in a tone that rang the earth along,
And thrilled the senses of the Judges' throng:
"I'd rather you would question why, in park
And street, my monuments were not erected
Than why they were." Then, waking, I reflected.


Enoch Arden was an able
Seaman; hear of his mishap--
Not in wild mendacious fable,
As 't was told by t' other chap;

For I hold it is a youthful
Indiscretion to tell lies,
And the writer that is truthful
Has the reader that is wise.

Enoch Arden, able seaman,
On an isle was cast away,
And before he was a freeman
Time had touched him up with gray.

Long he searched the fair horizon,
Seated on a mountain top;
Vessel ne'er he set his eyes on
That would undertake to stop.

Seeing that his sight was growing
Dim and dimmer, day by day,
Enoch said he must be going.
So he rose and went away--

Went away and so continued
Till he lost his lonely isle:
Mr. Arden was so sinewed
He could row for many a mile.

Compass he had not, nor sextant,
To direct him o'er the sea:
Ere 't was known that he was extant,
At his widow's home was he.

When he saw the hills and hollows
And the streets he could but know,
He gave utterance as follows
To the sentiments below:

"Blast my tarry toplights! (shiver,
Too, my timbers!) but, I say,
W'at a larruk to diskiver,
I have lost me blessid way!

"W'at, alas, would be my bloomin'
Fate if Philip now I see,
Which I lammed?--or my old 'oman,
Which has frequent basted _me_?"

Scenes of childhood swam around him
At the thought of such a lot:
In a swoon his Annie found him
And conveyed him to her cot.

'T was the very house, the garden,
Where their honeymoon was passed:
'T was the place where Mrs. Arden
Would have mourned him to the last.

Ah, what grief she'd known without him!
Now what tears of joy she shed!
Enoch Arden looked about him:
"Shanghaied!"--that was all he said.


Two bodies are lying in Phoenix Park,
Grim and bloody and stiff and stark,
And a Land League man with averted eye
Crosses himself as he hurries by.
And he says to his conscience under his breath:
"I have had no hand in this deed of death!"

A Fenian, making a circuit wide
And passing them by on the other side,
Shudders and crosses himself and cries:
"Who says that I did it, he lies, he lies!"

Gingerly stepping across the gore,
Pat Satan comes after the two before,
Makes, in a solemnly comical way,
The sign of the cross and is heard to say:
"O dear, what a terrible sight to see,
For babes like them and a saint like me!"



I ne'er could be entirely fond
Of any maiden who's a blonde,
And no brunette that e'er I saw
Had charms my heart's whole
warmth to draw.

Yet sure no girl was ever made
Just half of light and half of shade.
And so, this happy mean to get,
I love a blonde and a brunette.


Study good women and ignore the rest,
For he best knows the sex who knows the best.


From pride, joy, hate, greed, melancholy--
From any kind of vice, or folly,
Bias, propensity or passion
That is in prevalence and fashion,
Save one, the sufferer or lover
May, by the grace of God, recover:
Alone that spiritual tetter,
The zeal to make creation better,
Glows still immedicably warmer.
Who knows of a reformed reformer?


Hail, peerless Pun! thou last and best,
Most rare and excellent bequest
Of dying idiot to the wit
He died of, rat-like, in a pit!

Thyself disguised, in many a way
Thou let'st thy sudden splendor play,
Adorning all where'er it turns,
As the revealing bull's-eye burns,
Of the dim thief, and plays its trick
Upon the lock he means to pick.

Yet sometimes, too, thou dost appear
As boldly as a brigadier
Tricked out with marks and signs, all o'er,
Of rank, brigade, division, corps,
To show by every means he can
An officer is not a man;
Or naked, with a lordly swagger,
Proud as a cur without a wagger,
Who says: "See simple worth prevail--
All dog, sir--not a bit of tail!"

'T is then men give thee loudest welcome,
As if thou wert a soul from Hell come.

O obvious Pun! thou hast the grace
Of skeleton clock without a case--
With all its boweling displayed,
And all its organs on parade.

Dear Pun, you're common ground of bliss,
Where _Punch_ and I can meet and kiss;
Than thee my wit can stoop no low'r--
No higher his does ever soar.


O statesmen, what would you be at,
With torches, flags and bands?
You make me first throw up my hat,
And then my hands.


Dear, if I never saw your face again;
If all the music of your voice were mute
As that of a forlorn and broken lute;
If only in my dreams I might attain
The benediction of your touch, how vain
Were Faith to justify the old pursuit
Of happiness, or Reason to confute
The pessimist philosophy of pain.
Yet Love not altogether is unwise,
For still the wind would murmur in the corn,
And still the sun would splendor all the mere;
And I--I could not, dearest, choose but hear
Your voice upon the breeze and see your eyes
Shine in the glory of the summer morn.


Down in the state of Maine, the story goes,
A woman, to secure a lapsing pension,
Married a soldier--though the good Lord knows
That very common act scarce calls for mention.
What makes it worthy to be writ and read--
The man she married had been nine hours dead!

Now, marrying a corpse is not an act
Familiar to our daily observation,
And so I crave her pardon if the fact
Suggests this interesting speculation:
Should some mischance restore the man to life
Would she be then a widow, or a wife?

Let casuists contest the point; I'm not
Disposed to grapple with so great a matter.
'T would tie my thinker in a double knot
And drive me staring mad as any hatter--
Though I submit that hatters are, in fact,
Sane, and all other human beings cracked.

Small thought have I of Destiny or Chance;
Luck seems to me the same thing as Intention;
In metaphysics I could ne'er advance,
And think it of the Devil's own invention.
Enough of joy to know though when I wed
I _must_ be married, yet I _may_ be dead.


"Resolved that we will post," the tradesmen say,
"All names of debtors who do never pay."
"Whose shall be first?" inquires the ready scribe--
"Who are the chiefs of the marauding tribe?"
Lo! high Parnassus, lifting from the plain,
Upon his hoary peak, a noble fane!
Within that temple all the names are scrolled
Of village bards upon a slab of gold;
To that bad eminence, my friend, aspire,
And copy thou the Roll of Fame, entire.
Yet not to total shame those names devote,
But add in mercy this explaining note:
"These cheat because the law makes theft a crime,
And they obey all laws but laws of rhyme."


"Let music flourish!" So he said and died.
Hark! ere he's gone the minstrelsy begins:
The symphonies ascend, a swelling tide,
Melodious thunders fill the welkin wide--
The grand old lawyers, chinning on their chins!


"Authority, authority!" they shout
Whose minds, not large enough to hold a doubt,
Some chance opinion ever entertain,
By dogma billeted upon their brain.
"Ha!" they exclaim with choreatic glee,
"Here's Dabster if you won't give in to me--
Dabster, sir, Dabster, to whom all men look
With reverence!" The fellow wrote a book.
It matters not that many another wight
Has thought more deeply, could more wisely write
On t' other side--that you yourself possess
Knowledge where Dabster did but faintly guess.
God help you if ambitious to persuade
The fools who take opinion ready-made
And "recognize authorities." Be sure
No tittle of their folly they'll abjure
For all that you can say. But write it down,
Publish and die and get a great renown--
Faith! how they'll snap it up, misread, misquote,
Swear that they had a hand in all you wrote,
And ride your fame like monkeys on a goat!


The King of Scotland, years and years ago,
Convened his courtiers in a gallant row
And thus addressed them:

"Gentle sirs, from you
Abundant counsel I have had, and true:
What laws to make to serve the public weal;
What laws of Nature's making to repeal;
What old religion is the only true one,
And what the greater merit of some new one;
What friends of yours my favor have forgot;
Which of your enemies against me plot.
In harvests ample to augment my treasures,
Behold the fruits of your sagacious measures!
The punctual planets, to their periods just,
Attest your wisdom and approve my trust.
Lo! the reward your shining virtues bring:
The grateful placemen bless their useful king!
But while you quaff the nectar of my favor
I mean somewhat to modify its flavor
By just infusing a peculiar dash
Of tonic bitter in the calabash.
And should you, too abstemious, disdain it,
Egad! I'll hold your noses till you drain it!

"You know, you dogs, your master long has felt
A keen distemper in the royal pelt--
A testy, superficial irritation,
Brought home, I fancy, from some foreign nation.
For this a thousand simples you've prescribed--
Unguents external, draughts to be imbibed.
You've plundered Scotland of its plants, the seas
You've ravished, and despoiled the Hebrides,
To brew me remedies which, in probation,
Were sovereign only in their application.
In vain, and eke in pain, have I applied
Your flattering unctions to my soul and hide:
Physic and hope have been my daily food--
I've swallowed treacle by the holy rood!

"Your wisdom, which sufficed to guide the year
And tame the seasons in their mad career,
When set to higher purposes has failed me
And added anguish to the ills that ailed me.
Nor that alone, but each ambitious leech
His rivals' skill has labored to impeach
By hints equivocal in secret speech.
For years, to conquer our respective broils,
We've plied each other with pacific oils.
In vain: your turbulence is unallayed,
My flame unquenched; your rioting unstayed;
My life so wretched from your strife to save it
That death were welcome did I dare to brave it.
With zeal inspired by your intemperate pranks,
My subjects muster in contending ranks.
Those fling their banners to the startled breeze
To champion some royal ointment; these
The standard of some royal purge display
And 'neath that ensign wage a wasteful fray!
Brave tongues are thundering from sea to sea,
Torrents of sweat roll reeking o'er the lea!
My people perish in their martial fear,
And rival bagpipes cleave the royal ear!

"Now, caitiffs, tremble, for this very hour
Your injured sovereign shall assert his power!
Behold this lotion, carefully compound
Of all the poisons you for me have found--
Of biting washes such as tan the skin,
And drastic drinks to vex the parts within.
What aggravates an ailment will produce--
I mean to rub you with this dreadful juice!
Divided counsels you no more shall hatch--
At last you shall unanimously scratch.
Kneel, villains, kneel, and doff your shirts--God bless us!
They'll seem, when you resume them, robes of Nessus!"

The sovereign ceased, and, sealing what he spoke,
From Arthur's Seat[1] confirming thunders broke.
The conscious culprits, to their fate resigned,
Sank to their knees, all piously inclined.
This act, from high Ben Lomond where she floats,
The thrifty goddess, Caledonia, notes.
Glibly as nimble sixpence, down she tilts
Headlong, and ravishes away their kilts,
Tears off each plaid and all their shirts discloses,
Removes each shirt and their broad backs exposes.
The king advanced--then cursing fled amain
Dashing the phial to the stony plain
(Where't straight became a fountain brimming o'er,
Whence Father Tweed derives his liquid store)
For lo! already on each back _sans_ stitch
The red sign manual of the Rosy Witch!

[Footnote 1: A famous height overlooking Edinburgh.]


I fell asleep and dreamed that I
Was flung, like Vulcan, from the sky;
Like him was lamed--another part:
His leg was crippled and my heart.
I woke in time to see my love
Conceal a letter in her glove.


When lion and lamb have together lain down
Spectators cry out, all in chorus;
"The lamb doesn't shrink nor the lion frown--
A miracle's working before us!"

But 't is patent why Hot-head his wrath holds in,
And Faint-heart her terror and loathing;
For the one's but an ass in a lion's skin,
The other a wolf in sheep's clothing.


_The Superintendent of an Almshouse. A Pauper._


So _you're_ unthankful--you'll not eat the bird?
You sit about the place all day and gird.
I understand you'll not attend the ball
That's to be given to-night in Pauper Hall.


Why, that is true, precisely as you've heard:
I have no teeth and I will eat no bird.


Ah! see how good is Providence. Because
Of teeth He has denuded both your jaws
The fowl's made tender; you can overcome it
By suction; or at least--well, you can gum it,
Attesting thus the dictum of the preachers
That Providence is good to all His creatures--
Turkeys excepted. Come, ungrateful friend,
If our Thanksgiving dinner you'll attend
You shall say grace--ask God to bless at least
The soft and liquid portions of the feast.


Without those teeth my speech is rather thick--
He'll hardly understand Gum Arabic.
No, I'll not dine to-day. As to the ball,
'Tis known to you that I've no legs at all.
I had the gout--hereditary; so,
As it could not be cornered in my toe
They cut my legs off in the fond belief
That shortening me would make my anguish brief.
Lacking my legs I could not prosecute
With any good advantage a pursuit;
And so, because my father chose to court
Heaven's favor with his ortolans and Port
(Thanksgiving every day!) the Lord supplied
Saws for my legs, an almshouse for my pride
And, once a year, a bird for my inside.
No, I'll not dance--my light fantastic toe
Took to its heels some twenty years ago.
Some small repairs would be required for putting
My feelings on a saltatory footing.


O the legless man's an unhappy chap--
_Tum-hi, tum-hi, tum-he o'haddy._
The favors o' fortune fall not in his lap--
_Tum-hi, tum-heedle-do hum._
The plums of office avoid his plate
No matter how much he may stump the State--
_Tum-hi, ho-heeee._
The grass grows never beneath his feet,
But he cannot hope to make both ends meet--
With a gleeless eye and a somber heart,
He plays the role of his mortal part:
Wholly himself he can never be.
O, a soleless corporation is he!


The chapel bell is calling, thankless friend,
Balls you may not, but church you _shall_, attend.
Some recognition cannot be denied
To the great mercy that has turned aside
The sword of death from us and let it fall
Upon the people's necks in Montreal;
That spared our city, steeple, roof and dome,
And drowned the Texans out of house and home;
Blessed all our continent with peace, to flood
The Balkan with a cataclysm of blood.
Compared with blessings of so high degree,
Your private woes look mighty small--to me.


Daughter of God! Audacity divine--
Of clowns the terror and of brains the sign--
Not thou the inspirer of the rushing fool,
Not thine of idiots the vocal drool:
Thy bastard sister of the brow of brass,
Presumption, actuates the charging ass.
Sky-born Audacity! of thee who sings
Should strike with freer hand than mine the strings;
The notes should mount on pinions true and strong,
For thou, the subject shouldst sustain the song,
Till angels lean from Heaven, a breathless throng!
Alas! with reeling heads and wavering tails,
They (notes, not angels) drop and the hymn fails;
The minstrel's tender fingers and his thumbs
Are torn to rags upon the lyre he strums.
Have done! the lofty thesis makes demand
For stronger voices and a harder hand:
Night-howling apes to make the notes aspire,
And Poet Riley's fist to slug the rebel wire!


Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The wisest and the best of men,
Betook him to the place where sat
With folded feet upon a mat
Of precious stones beneath a palm,
In sweet and everlasting calm,
That ancient and immortal gent,
The God of Rational Content.
As tranquil and unmoved as Fate,
The deity reposed in state,
With palm to palm and sole to sole,
And beaded breast and beetling jowl,
And belly spread upon his thighs,
And costly diamonds for eyes.
As Chunder Sen approached and knelt
To show the reverence he felt;
Then beat his head upon the sod
To prove his fealty to the god;
And then by gestures signified
The other sentiments inside;
The god's right eye (as Chunder Sen,
The wisest and the best of men,
Half-fancied) grew by just a thought
More narrow than it truly ought.
Yet still that prince of devotees,
Persistent upon bended knees
And elbows bored into the earth,
Declared the god's exceeding worth,
And begged his favor. Then at last,
Within that cavernous and vast
Thoracic space was heard a sound
Like that of water underground--
A gurgling note that found a vent
At mouth of that Immortal Gent
In such a chuckle as no ear
Had e'er been privileged to hear!

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The wisest, greatest, best of men,
Heard with a natural surprise
That mighty midriff improvise.
And greater yet the marvel was
When from between those massive jaws
Fell words to make the views more plain
The god was pleased to entertain:
"Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,"
So ran the rede in speech of men--
"Foremost of mortals in assent
To creed of Rational Content,
Why come you here to impetrate
A blessing on your scurvy pate?
Can you not rationally be
Content without disturbing me?
Can you not take a hint--a wink--
Of what of all this rot I think?
Is laughter lost upon you quite,
To check you in your pious rite?
What! know you not we gods protest
That all religion is a jest?
You take me seriously?--you
About me make a great ado
(When I but wish to be alone)
With attitudes supine and prone,
With genuflexions and with prayers,
And putting on of solemn airs,
To draw my mind from the survey
Of Rational Content away!
Learn once for all, if learn you can,
This truth, significant to man:
A pious person is by odds
The one most hateful to the gods."
Then stretching forth his great right hand,
Which shadowed all that sunny land,
That deity bestowed a touch
Which Chunder Sen not overmuch
Enjoyed--a touch divine that made
The sufferer hear stars! They played
And sang as on Creation's morn
When spheric harmony was born.

Cheeta Raibama Chunder Sen,
The most astonished man of men,
Fell straight asleep, and when he woke
The deity nor moved nor spoke,
But sat beneath that ancient palm
In sweet and everlasting calm.


The lily cranks, the lily cranks,
The loppy, loony lasses!
They multiply in rising ranks
To execute their solemn pranks,
They moon along in masses.
Blow, sweet lily, in the shade! O,
Sunflower decorate the dado!

The maiden ass, the maiden ass,
The tall and tailless jenny!
In limp attire as green as grass,
She stands, a monumental brass,
The one of one too many.
Blow, sweet lily, in the shade! O,
Sunflower decorate the dado!


God said: "Let there be noise." The dawning fire
Of Independence gilded every spire.


Time was the local poets sang their songs
Beneath their breath in terror of the thongs
I snapped about their shins. Though mild the stroke
Bards, like the conies, are "a feeble folk,"
Fearing all noises but the one they make
Themselves--at which all other mortals quake.
Now from their cracked and disobedient throats,
Like rats from sewers scampering, their notes
Pour forth to move, where'er the season serves,
If not our legs to dance, at least our nerves;
As once a ram's-horn solo maddened all
The sober-minded stones in Jerich's wall.
A year's exemption from the critic's curse
Mends the bard's courage but impairs his verse.
Thus poolside frogs, when croaking in the night,
Are frayed to silence by a meteor's flight,
Or by the sudden plashing of a stone
From some adjacent cottage garden thrown,
But straight renew the song with double din
Whene'er the light goes out or man goes in.
Shall I with arms unbraced (my casque unlatched,
My falchion pawned, my buckler, too, attached)
Resume the cuishes and the broad cuirass,
Accomplishing my body all in brass,
And arm in battle royal to oppose
A village poet singing through the nose,
Or strolling troubadour his lyre who strums
With clumsy hand whose fingers all are thumbs?
No, let them rhyme; I fought them once before
And stilled their songs--but, Satan! how they swore!--
Cuffed them upon the mouth whene'er their throats
They cleared for action with their sweetest notes;
Twisted their ears (they'd oft tormented mine)
And damned them roundly all along the line;
Clubbed the whole crew from the Parnassian slopes,
A wreck of broken heads and broken hopes!
What gained I so? I feathered every curse
Launched at the village bards with lilting verse.
The town approved and christened me (to show its
High admiration) Chief of Local Poets!


Dull were the days and sober,
The mountains were brown and bare,
For the season was sad October
And a dirge was in the air.

The mated starlings flew over
To the isles of the southern sea.
She wept for her warrior lover--
Wept and exclaimed: "Ah, me!

"Long years have I mourned my darling
In his battle-bed at rest;
And it's O, to be a starling,
With a mate to share my nest!"

The angels pitied her sorrow,
Restoring her warrior's life;
And he came to her arms on the morrow
To claim her and take her to wife.

An aged lover--a portly,
Bald lover, a trifle too stiff,
With manners that would have been courtly,
And would have been graceful, if--

If the angels had only restored him
Without the additional years
That had passed since the enemy bored him
To death with their long, sharp spears.

As it was, he bored her, and she rambled
Away with her father's young groom,
And the old lover smiled as he ambled
Contentedly back to the tomb.


Wild wanton Luxury lays waste the land
With difficulty tilled by Thrift's hard hand!


Back to Full Books